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Reduce “use public transport” campaigns – just flatten intercity train fares

Comment 6th July 2010

Every week there is a public funded initiative or scheme aiming to persuade us to use public transport. Adopt my idea and 1) many of these schemes can be ditched 2) people will use public transport in droves, and on a whim.

We watch the next campaign champion or MP making his appeal. We read, watch or hear the advert telling us to reduce our carbon miles. The problems hits when we decide to take action! Just look at the cost of traveling anywhere on a train (short, local journeys aside). If I travel today the train fare to the next city I'm looking at is over £100 – well today I think I will just take the car! Had I booked a week ago the same ticket would have cost £15. In practice this decision is made every time I consider travelling – consequently every time I take the car. This is madness. Very few people want to book ahead – and of course the quantity of £15 tickets are limited anyway. Why are our pockets being punished to the value of £100 if we choose to travel today? I wager that if the ticket was £15 whether I book one week in advance or one minute in advance, then my (and most people's) use of intercity trains would rocket. The trains would carry more passengers (and expand with demand), and make more efficiencies, and we would see green transport uptake at last. One last comment – don't let the train companies declare themselves compliant by publishing just a couple of these "on the day" £15 tickets: make them flatten all their fares for the same journey.

Why does this matter?

People are not changing their "take the car" habit when travelling a reasonable distance, simply because exhorbitant short-notice train fares punish them. My idea will make "let's travel today" decisions affordable, and popular.

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